MLA Documentation Style: A Quick Reference Guide
MLA (Modern Language Association) documentation style is the citation format used in the humanities and modern languages, including English. There are two main elements that a properly documented MLA paper will include: 1) direct quotations or paraphrases within the body of the paper complete with end-of-sentence references; and 2) a Works Cited page. Listed below are the basics you need to know about MLA citation style. These examples are taken from the 7th edition.
Make certain that all direct quotes or paraphrases you use contain these three aspects: 1) proper quote attribution (simple, partial, or formal), 2) a parenthetical citation with author’s name and page number, and 3) commentary in your own words about the quote to form a transition between it and the rest of your text.
Quote attribution is the way to transition from your own writing into a direct quote. There are three types of attribution:
· Simple attribution: this is a simple way to introduce the quote with a short phrase and a comma. Example: Fitzgerald writes, “this is a valley of ashes” (27).
· Partial attribution: using only specific words and phrases from the text and integrating it with your own writing. Example: The area between East and West Egg is “a valley of ashes” and is said to possess “powdery air” (Fitzgerald 27).
· Formal attribution: using a complete sentence and a colon to introduce a direct quote. Example: The area between East and West Egg is desolate and infertile: “this is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills” (Fitzgerald 27).
You include parenthetical citation to demonstrate to the reader where you found the information you are using. Parenthetical citation guides the reader to an entry on your Works Cited page and should usually be placed at the end of the sentence so as to be unobtrusive. Generally, you will use the author’s last name and a page number (no comma needed) to cite the quotation or paraphrase. Example: (Fitzgerald 27). Notice that the punctuation for the sentence comes after the parentheses.
· If the author’s name is placed in the immediate text around the citation, you do not have to restate the author’s name. Example: Fitzgerald writes, “this is a valley of ashes” (27).
· If the source includes no author’s name, use a shortened version of the title or a main word to demonstrate the source. Example: (Gatsby 27).
Always follow up a direct quotation or paraphrase with commentary of your own. This will help your reader see the significance of the quote and will help you transition from quote to your own writing in your paper. Example: Fitzgerald writes, “this is a valley of ashes” (27). This stark phrase is his way of comparing East and West Egg to images of desolation and infertility.
Your Works Cited will include all your reference information for your sources. Please follow a few simple guidelines when constructing your Works Cited page:
· double space all entries just as you double spaced your paper;
· number your Works Cited as the last page of your document;
· place all sources in alphabetical order; and
· make sure you include all sources you cited or referenced in your paper.
Book by One Author
Seagrave, Sterling. The Marcos Dynasty. New York: Harper, 1988. Print.
Work in an Edited Collection or an Anthology
Narayan, Shoba. “The God of Small Feasts.” Critical Inquiries: Readings on Culture and
Community. Ed. Jacqueline Jones Royster. New York: Longman, 2003. 29-33. Print.
Scholarly Publication (Journal)
Martin, Rita J. “Folk Songs as a Language Arts Experience.” Language Arts 58 (1981):
Internet Web Site (Stand Alone Document on the Web)
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. National Park Service. 11 Feb. 2003. Web. 13 Feb. 2003. <http://www.nps.gov/abli/>.
Full Text Magazine Article from a Database
Gore, Rick. "Pharaohs of the Sun." National Geographic Apr. 2001. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Aug. 2001.
Full Text Journal Article from a Database
Holton, Woody. "The Ohio Indians and the Coming of the American Revolution in Virginia." The Journal of Southern History 60.3 (1994): 453-478. JSTOR. Web. 31 July 1998.
Additional MLA Resources